Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics
Western army fights on its stomach;what about the Taliban ?
Walking into a mess hall at Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan can be confusing.
Soldiers from NATO countries, walking in all directions, have plenty to choose from. Asian workers load heaps of food on plates as long rows of soldiers wait patiently. There is the salad bar. The fruit bar. The bread toasting area. In the centre of mess halls are short order cooks who make stir fry meals, for instance. The drinks section offers everything from apple to multi-vitamin juices to chilled milk.
If soldiers are still thirsty and need a quick sugar boost they can always turn to refrigerators packed with soft drinks. For the greedy – a sign says only two cans per person.
After a dizzying look at all that is on offer, I remembered, for some reason, someone telling me long ago how the Vietnamese lived on tiny amounts of rice fighting the Americans. Did that make them even harder fighters? Probably.
What do the Taliban eat? Are they loading up on staggering amounts of Afghan food, including the local equivalent of ice cream and cake? Are they comforted by air conditioning and entertained by sports channels at canteens on huge, heavily-guarded bases where sirens blare when a rocket is fired at them?
Unlikely. Their leader, Mullah Omar, who lost an eye fighting Soviet occupiers, is known as a simple man, from a simple background devoid of what his fighters would surely see as shocking luxuries enjoyed by his Western enemies.
Smaller helpings may be good for the warrior’s psyche.